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Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (Vintage) [Kindle Edition]

Richard Lyman Bushman
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (192 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $18.95
Kindle Price: $12.99
You Save: $5.96 (31%)
Sold by: Random House LLC


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Book Description

Founder of the largest indigenous Christian church in American history, Joseph Smith published the 584-page Book of Mormon when he was twenty-three and went on to organize a church, found cities, and attract thousands of followers before his violent death at age thirty-eight. Richard Bushman, an esteemed cultural historian and a practicing Mormon, moves beyond the popular stereotype of Smith as a colorful fraud to explore his personality, his relationships with others, and how he received revelations. An arresting narrative of the birth of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling also brilliantly evaluates the prophet’s bold contributions to Christian theology and his cultural place in the modern world.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. How should a historian depict a man's life when that man, and his religion, remain a mystery to so many 200 years after his birth? Bushman, an emeritus professor at Columbia University and author of Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, greatly expands on that previous work, filling in many details of the founding prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and carrying the story through to the end of Smith's life. Many continue to view Smith as an enigmatic and controversial figure. Bushman locates him in his historical and cultural context, fleshing out the many nuances of 19th-century American life that produced such a fertile ground for emerging religions. The author, a practicing Mormon, is aware that his book stands in the intersection of faith and scholarship, but does not avoid the problematic aspects of Smith's life and work, such as his practice of polygamy, his early attempts at treasure-seeking and his later political aspirations. In the end, Smith emerges as a genuine American phenomenon, a man driven by inspiration but not unaffected by his cultural context. This is a remarkable book, wonderfully readable and supported by exhaustive research. For anyone interested in the Mormon experience, it will be required reading for years to come. (Oct. 10)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

Joseph Smith claimed that he was visited by an angel who gave him golden plates from which he transcribed the Book of Mormon, and he had organized a church before he was twenty-five. His personal charisma and his administrative genius helped spread Mormonism throughout the Western United States, turning the sect into a legislative federation complete with social and political institutions. There were always those who thought Smith a charlatan and a fanatic, and, in 1844, at the age of thirty-eight, he was fatally shot by an angry mob. Bushman is both an emeritus professor of history at Columbia and a practicing Mormon, and his exhaustive biography carefully treads a path between reverence and objectivity, as when he investigates the phenomenon of "plural marriage"; Smith, in order to establish "a Righteous race . . . uppon the Earth," had more than thirty wives.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
532 of 591 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truth sometimes really is stranger than fiction. July 26, 2006
I would like to start the review admitting I am not a Mormon. I love biographies of great people in history. I read "No man knows my History" by Fawn Brodie. I came on that book by accident. And I realize from some of the reviews on Amazon that Mormons dont like that book much. I thought it was great, but admit that she paints Joseph Smith in a negative light sometimes. But I could still see through enough to see a great man behind her attacks on his character.

"Rough Stone Rolling" is the exact opposite of that book. Richard Bushman uses a lot of the same stories but doesnt have the same negative slant. But he still shows that Joseph Smith was not perfect, which I admire. This is the best biography I have ever read.

This book takes you all through Joseph Smith's life. From a farmboy in New York who got on his knees and asked God to show him the way, to the man who was gunned down in Carthage a martyr for his calling.

If he was a Prophet or not is up for debate. As a Christian I believe that God is real and God can still speak today. Before I read the history of Joseph Smith if someone asked me if he was a prophet, I would have said no. After reading up on the man I would answer that it is not out of the realm of possibility. I believe he believed he was a prophet. I believe that some unexplainable things happened around him and the early Church.

The question was he a great man or not has been settled in my mind at least. I think he was a great man. To be tared and feathered and beaten, and still preach that next morning. To take persecutions and imprisionment in stride, to never compromise what you believe even in the face of death. These things are the very definition of a great man.
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343 of 382 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warts and All November 12, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It's hard to overestimate just how much Richard Bushman's long-awaited biography of Joseph Smith has been eagerly anticipated by Mormon readers. Now that it's finally here it would be only natural if it didn't live up to expectations. The thing is--it's just as good as we all hoped it would be. "Rough Stone Rolling" is the culmination of almost forty years of what has been called "the new Mormon history." It's impossible for LDS writers to be objective about Joseph given his place in LDS history, so Bushman aims for balance and candor and succeeds brilliantly.

When I was growing up as a Mormon I have to admit that much of the LDS writing about Joseph was an obstacle to my faith. According to many he was a ideal man without flaw, a sort of 19th-century superhero. This made him a papier-mache saint that was impossible to relate to on a human level. Bushman describes a man who trusted the wrong people at times; was hotheaded, impulsive, and contentious; couldn't abide personal criticism; was a lousy businessman--in short, a man with familiar human foibles. On the other hand he had a large, open heart, an expansive view of human possibilities, and an almost scary insight into the religious quandries of our lives. He was able to convince many, many others that the heavens had been opened. Much of 19th century Protestantism seemed spiritually dead as a stone; Joseph and his followers believed he had restored the flow of revelation that had existed in Biblical times. He became a prophet in a distinctly American vein.

Perhaps his most famous line for non-Mormons was "no man knows my history; if I hadn't lived it I wouldn't have believed it myself." Bushman captures the sheer mystical mystery of Joseph's life.
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202 of 225 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Joseph Smith - Quintessential American August 29, 2007
Desiring some basic understanding of Mormonism, I asked a priest friend from Utah to recommend a book. He said that it is hard to find a good book because writings on Mormonism tend to be either Mormon propaganda or anti-Mormon attacks. He did mention that a lot of people were reading *Under the Banner of Heaven* by Jon Krakauer. It turned out be a slash-and-burn attack not only on Mormonism, but religion in general. Shortly after reading Krakauer's book, I discovered *Rough Stone Rolling.* What a contrast! And what an amazing accomplishment! As both a practicing Mormon and a Columbia University professor, Dr. Bushman enables an outsider (like myself) to appreciate the life and times of Joseph Smith.

Before commenting on *Rough Stone Rolling,* I want to make an obvious (but necessary) disclaimer: As a Catholic I do not accept the basic thesis of Mormonism - namely, that Jesus founded a Church and then allowed it to fall into apostasy until a nineteenth century American named Joseph Smith restored it. Mormons believe that, with the death of the last apostle, the Church also died. Catholics, by contrast, believe that the pope and bishops are successors of the apostles.

With that disclaimer in mind, I must say that Dr. Bushman helped me appreciate the great genius of Joseph Smith. At a time when rationalism was robbing people of a direct experience of God, Smith convincingly presented himself as a prophet and wanted others to have similar revelations from God. But he also recognized the need for authority to prevent individual revelations from fracturing the community. In the process he set up structures very familiar to Catholics: a priesthood, a hierarchy with one final authority and rituals which connect believers to divine mysteries.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Why people worship weirdos - good case study
defenders and critics both praise this book

it is well researched and is closer to the reality/truth than any previous LDS-friendly version of the tale. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Fern
5.0 out of 5 stars A Triumph of a Biography; a Biography of Triumph
Joseph's people loved him, and it's not hard to understand why after reading this seminal biography. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Russell Spencer
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
As a long-time member of the church, I find this book very interesting. It gives a very human perspective of Joseph Smith. Prophets are also people with imperfections. Read more
Published 25 days ago by Rick Carpenter
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting and informative and surprisingly candid
For a LDS author, Bushman seemed willing to take a hard look at the facts no matter how they cut. It would have been interesting to live during the times and know the man.
Published 1 month ago by bev lambert
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book tremendously!!!
He tells the story of Joseph's life without embellishing for good or bad. Great read! I would recommend this book to anyone
Published 1 month ago by Gina DeFendis
4.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful and engaging history
A well-documented historical framework for looking at the life of Joseph Smith, Jr. I found that the narrative was coherent and consistent throughout the text. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Vernon C. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Read
An unfiltered look into an ordinary Vermont farm boy's life journey to prophethood and world wide religion founder. Read more
Published 1 month ago by AdamBomb
4.0 out of 5 stars good read
As a member of the LDS religion it was somewhat of an eye oener. Research on this was outstanding. It gave me a deeper appreciation for the era, the man, and the cause. Read more
Published 1 month ago by TRAVIS SMITH
5.0 out of 5 stars unbiased and fair
Mr Bushman is a Mormon but he does a good job at not being biased by his beliefs. I feel that I know a lot more about the man Joseph Smith and what made him "tick" having... Read more
Published 1 month ago by knbhuff
4.0 out of 5 stars Careful
I loved this book because I felt like I learned things that I might never have known otherwise. As a member of the LDS faith, I think it was a good, and fair representation of the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Keishah
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